It's that time of year again! With 2014 coming to a close, we look back on the metal songs which impacted our ears since Jan. 1. For this list, we're taking into account fan response, songwriting prowess, popularity, creative progression, technical ability and many more dynamics.
After a year's worth of thought, listening to everything we can get our hands on and keeping our ears to the ground, we give you our choices for the 20 Best Metal Songs of 2014!
British doom act Alunah released the killer 'Awakening the Forest' album this year, led by the track 'Heavy Bough.' The piece of doom psychedelia is a slow burn which becomes increasingly hypnotic as frontwoman Soph Day begins her calm vocal approach. The rest of 'Heavy Bough' is carried by a solid instrumental foundation reminiscent of classic Black Sabbath, though the song consistently maintains its own identity.
After the awesome 'Down IV Part I - The Purple EP' in 2012, was there ever any doubt that its companion piece would be awesome too? From 'Down IV - Part II,' the new track 'We Knew Him Well' is pure NOLA sludge. Philip Anselmo's vocals are dirty as hell while the instrumental section of Down trudge along with a groove-heavy backdrop. Anselmo has plenty of room to move around vocally in 'We Knew Him Well,' and the Pantera legend uses that space to his full advantage.
Slayer will always sound like Slayer, but it's always refreshing when the pinnacle thrash band cranks out a track that feels timeless. Slayer premiered 'Implode' at the 2014 Revolver Golden Gods Awards in what was largely thought to be the show's high point. Even when performed after immortal Slayer anthems 'South of Heaven' and 'War Ensemble,' 'Implode' sounded strong, fitting in snugly as the final piece of Slayer's three-song set. The band offered a free download of 'Implode' almost immediately after the Golden Gods gig, and we offer our thanks in return.
'Baring Teeth For Revolt'Goatwhore
Goatwhore is a one-of-a-kind band. The boys have the ability to stick with their death, black and heavy metal roots while creating anthems that will crawl into your ears and stay there. For 'Baring Teeth for Revolt,' guitarist Sammy Duet offers an old-school riff over battlecry lyrics like, "We are coming to taste their blood / We are coming defile their gods."
Steel Panther have brought heavy metal back once again, this time through a hole drilled inconspicuously into a bathroom stall. From the band's third album, 'All You Can Eat,' 'Gloryhole' is everything you want in a Steel Panther side-splitter. Guitarist Satchel leads the song with a powerful riff while singer Michael Starr unapologetically delivers lines such as "I don't wanna know / Who's sucking my c--k tonight / I'm going to the gloryhole / Gonna f--- it with all my might." The song's bridge is actually the track's high point, with anthemically beautiful vocal harmonies topping a perfect instrumental soundscape.
One could argue that Vader's 'Tibi Et Igni' was an album unfairly overlooked by many. After 31 years and 10 albums of pure death metal, some tend to take our veterans for granted, but 'Triumph of Death' is a brilliant track. 'Triumph of Death' is also ridiculously catchy as frontman Piotr 'Peter' Wiwczarek grunts out, "To the grave / To the grave / Still marching on," before dueling guitars unleash fret-melting insanity.
'Tessellation'With Our Arms to the Sun
We discovered With Our Arms to the Sun earlier this year and were captivated at first listen. With ‘Tessellation,’ WOATTS flesh out a long and progressive intro before mellowing out with atmospheric synth and captivating vocal harmonies. Just after the track’s halfway point, some fantastic drumming provides the foundation for a Native American-like chant, which only sucks the listener further into With Our Arms to the Sun’s sonic vacuum.
American cult metallers Agalloch aren't known to disappoint. The band has been consistent when garnering critical and fan acclaim for 15 years, and this captivating cut maintains a blackened and bleak style while frontman John Haughm haunts the tune with his harsh whispers.
Though Triptykon are incredibly gloomy and somewhat depressive, they still provide excitement in all the right ways. The entire 'Melana Chasmata' album is great from start to finish, but 'Boleskine House' is the track that will suck you deep into the record. That bass tone! Absolutely disgusting. 'Boleskine House' also features some stunning vocal work, mixing male and female sensibilities in a truly creepy, hypnotic way.
After iconic vocalist Angela Gossow stepped down from Arch Enemy, fans questioned whether Agonist frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz could fill Gossow's shoes. White-Gluz answered with 'War Eternal,' the title track of Arch Enemy's ninth album. Fans have responded very positively to 'War Eternal,' which has amassed a few million views on YouTube.
Say what you will about the lack of Mikael Akerfeldt's gutturals, but 'Cusp of Eternity' is 100-percent Opeth. The band's constant stylistic shifts throw off certain sects of fans, but Opeth's sonic spirit comes in many forms. Akerfeldt explores new realms of his clean singing style, projecting forcefully with a fresh and gripping cadence.
'True Hallucination Speak'Cynic
It was tough choosing between 'True Hallucination Speak' and 'The Lion's Roar' to represent Cynic's masterful third full-length, 'Kindly Bent to Free Us.' Although 'The Lion's Roar' delivers a more memorable riff, 'THS' is a quintessential piece of Cynic's modern sound. From elite musicianship and composition, to awe-inspiring vocals and beautiful atmosphere, 'True Hallucination Speak' is all the proof you need that Cynic still belong on progressive metal's upper-most shelf.
'Order of Dracul'Septicflesh
Septicflesh released their latest masterpiece, 'Titan,' on June 24, and as fans know, the Greek symphonic death metallers are constantly outdoing themselves when creating epic compositions. One of these new accomplishments is 'Order of Dracul.' Utilizing the brilliant Prague Philharmonic, 'Order of Dracul' is heavier than hell, yet tremendously sophisticated.
Exodus, Steve 'Zetro' Souza, Kirk Hammett -- a combination destined for thrash notoriety. The solid guitar lead driving 'Salt the Wound' adds even more dimension, guarding the purity of California thrash while keeping the sound fresh. 'Salt the Wound' is a track written by a band reinvigorated and still hungry to keep fans moving in the pit.
'While We Sleep'Insomnium
Finnish melodic death metallers Insomnium are welcome guests on our list for the work featured on their sixth studio album, 'Shadows of the Dying Sun.' There are a lot of dynamics at work within Insomnium's music, and a perfect example of this is 'While We Sleep.' The band utilize masterful harmonies, painting a gloomy soundscape around death metal gutturals and metalcore riffing. There's so much more to be said about Insomnium and their solid songwriting, but just hit play on 'While We Sleep' and allow yourself to drift away.
As one of 2014's few inductees into our Death Match Hall of Fame, Overkill's 'Armorist' pulls no punches as vocalist Bobby Blitz commands, "Fight, fight, fight like ya never did fight before!" 'Armorist' is just another piece of Overkill's massive comeback, which has allowed fans of all ages to discover new and exciting thrash.
'The Negative One'Slipknot
'The Negative One' is the exact song we were hoping for when Slipknot announced the recording of their fifth studio album. Reminiscent of 'Iowa,' Corey Taylor spews forth his hate-filled vocals while the man who replaced drummer Joey Jordison was able to capture the percussive spirit of Slipknot brilliantly. You want pissed-off Slipknot? Here it is, maggots.
'Chimes at Midnight'Mastodon
‘Chimes at Midnight’ strikes the listener with heavy nuances from the ‘Blood Mountain’ and ‘Crack the Skye’ albums while injecting some new characteristics comparable only to ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun.’ As always, Mastodon deliver a big riff with ‘Chimes,’ which carries over into the song’s verses. A slower, more melodic riff also keeps the song on course, bookending ‘Chimes at Midnight’ with transcendental upheaval.
'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer'Behemoth
From Behemoth's 2014 masterpiece, 'The Satanist,' many new tracks instantly became fan favorites. The brilliant mood piece 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel' and epic closer 'O Father O Satan O Sun!' brought Behemoth's music to monumental heights, but 'Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer' is our choice. The song sounds purely evil -- Nergal's calls to Satan are chilling, while heavy percussion and atmospheric guitar paint a grim soundscape.
'Halls of Valhalla'Judas Priest
THIS is exactly what we meant when we spoke about the new Judas Priest album, 'Redeemer of Souls,' being epic. 'Halls of Valhalla' showcases soaring vocals from Rob Halford, reinvigorated guitar work thanks in part to Richie Faulkner and phenomenal songwriting. 'Valhalla' is truly where Priest belong.
Judas Priest - 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?'